San Ignacio, Belice (PressExposure) March 23, 2012 -- The Institute for Sustainable International Studies (ISIS) has partnered with the village of Succotz in the Cayo district of Belize. This effort provides students with an opportunity to learn while doing volunteer work that supports the needs and goals of the village. The Village Council, two primary schools and a high school, and other village organizations identify projects while ISIS finds student groups and interns to assist with those projects.
In early January, 2012, a team of students from Shenandoah University in Virginia, USA, and local students, drafted a strategic plan for the development of eco-tourism in Succotz. The students did an analysis which identified opportunities and issues facing the village in establishing more tourist trade in the village. Suggestions ranged from a highway sign identifying the village to the need for a village website. One theme that emerged from the Shenandoah students' work was that of garbage disposal in the village.
Shortly after the business analysis was completed an intern from SUNY-Cortland, New York program focused on the issue of solid waste management. Working with Friends of Conservation and Development (FCD), the Village Council, government agencies responsible for solid waste management and the FCD Youth Group, the intern surveyed the problem, to come up with some creative and inexpensive ways to begin to address the garbage issue for Succotz. His proposals were presented at a meeting of the local leaders.
The Youth Group is continuing his work by building inexpensive garbage cans by recycling plastic soda bottles and selling the containers to do more work in recycling and waste reduction education. Students from Sacred Heart Junior College, another ISIS and community partner are working on designing a website for the village in addition to supporting the primary and high schools with their IT needs. The website will provide opportunities for primary and high school students to give input into the site content as a learning experience. It also provides role models for continuing their education with the closest junior college.
As part of their commitment to education, a group within the village has started a library in Succotz. Students with ISIS, from Shenandoah University and the University of Toronto, brought books to donate to the library, reflecting the cultures and literature from their area.
In February, the University of Toronto sent 10 students and a professor who focused their time in Belize on the village of Succotz. After an introduction to Belize, Cayo and Succotz, the students explored the issue of youth and nutrition. The group conducted interviews with students from the local primary schools and high school, San Jose Succotz Roman Catholic School, Victorious Nazarene Primary School and Nazarene High School. The visiting students asked the children and teenagers about the food they eat. They also collected a sample of garbage found on the village's football field. The results found that primary students consumed more candy and soft drinks than high school students. Almost all of the students could identify healthy foods like vegetables and fruits. However, only a few reported that they actually consumed vegetables on a daily basis. As one student from the University of Toronto commented, "Getting a chance to speak to the kids at the school on an informal basis was quite eye-opening and rewarding."
The work student groups and interns do in Succotz is given to the village and its organizations so they may benefit from this service and learning. Future student groups will build upon the work of past student groups to serve Succotz' community goals.